A few years ago, my dear friend Jenn shared with me photos she’d taken of a lovely plantation house where she’d had lunch – Houmas House. The photos were gorgeous, and I fell in love with this place I’d never visited. When I decided to visit Jenn, I knew immediately we were going to eat there, and that I’d take photos of the grounds. (Which I did, and will share if you email me the request – I’m quite proud of them!)
Quite honestly, I walked onto the grounds and thought “This is where I’m going to get married.” While this is a lie – for a number of reasons I won’t share here, not least of all the humidity! in early May! what IS that! – that’s just how lovely I thought the grounds were. I’m not the only one, as I saw not one… not two… but three different brides having their photos taken around the grounds. (Speaking of which – no grooms in sight. Is that a thing? For the bride to take photos alone? Interesting…)
In any case, I decided I’d take Jenn for a splashy dinner as a thank you for being the lovely hostess she was: she took off from work to spend time with me, and basically chauffeured my behind around and showed me her lovely area. It was an awesome mini-vacay, and if I haven’t made it abundantly clear I’m saying it here again: I had a fantastic time, and that’s largely due to Jenn. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, Jenn!!!
First up: bread and butter. House made ‘plain French bread’ they called it, black olive bread, and a cheese bread – was it parmesan? Regardless, that butter! oh the butter. All house-made; one plain, one with scallions, and one pecan molasses butter. Jenn was particularly enamored of the pecan molasses butter… it was pretty delicious!
Our “moosh-boosh” (as our great server called it) was a pork and andouille taco that I thought was a great prelude to the rest of the meal.
Our jumbo lump crabcake; there wasn’t a lot of filler, with a little bit of mango throughout to add sweetness. It had a decent crust on the exterior for texture and was moist without being mushy. I liked it a lot – I had a bit of shell in my half, but no big deal.
Ahhh, crispy pork belly with Houmas House honey – they have their own bee population from which they harvest (collect? what word do you use?) honey. And it was delicious; the fat was crispy, while the honey cut through the richness perfectly. I was quite thrilled with this dish.
For a glutton am I, I also ordered a crab/beet salad that Jenn did not sample as I think she does not care for beets. This was very fresh tasting, but slightly on the sweet side – from the sweet crab, sweet beets, maybe a little cheese to cut it would have been nice. Regardless, a very nice dish.
For a palate cleanser – this is where the kitchen being a few buildings down makes things interesting. We were in a room at the top of an open-air housing structure (which I get the feeling was a common type of building on plantations back in the day, to encourage the flow of air on hot days), and the kitchen was actually a few buildings away. We could see runners through the window adjacent our table going back and forth with plates of food. These martini glasses actually originally had scoops of sorbet in them, which quickly melted (or mine did; Jenn’s was still semi-solid when she received it). I can’t imagine what it’s like trying to keep these frozen in the dead of summer! Or how some dishes sit for a little while the server is busy taking orders, etc. (I watched this happen a few times). This could seriously detract from the quality of a dish…
In any case, we were brought martini glasses with cranberry sorbet in the bottom of them, and then a bottle of Grey Goose L’Orange was brought over. Our server told us “say when!” and poured over the sorbet; the glasses were rimmed with “mardi gras sugar” – and when I took a bit of sorbet with my spoon, I found the overall effect very pleasant and not too sweet. But when I tried drinking it, the alcohol overwhelmed the sorbet easily, even though I’d said when pretty quickly (I refrained from drinking pretty much this entire trip, by choice). Ah well!
Jenn ordered the filet mignon with root beer demi glace. I haven’t cared for filet mignon for very many years, but Jenn graciously offered me a piece that happily, I decided to try after her reaction to her first bite. Oh myyyyyy, this was tender, rich, and absolutely freakin’ delicious. It hardly needed a knife, and I know Jenn was thoroughly thrilled with her plate as she cleaned it, and told me that she would have to return to have this dish again and again – that’s how much she liked it.
Though I easily lost in the ‘whose dish was better?’ game, my plume de veau (veal steak) with house made fettucine and garden kale was no slouch. Thicker than I’d expected, it was super moist, tender and delicious, though after a bite of the filet mignon, its mild, almost milky veal flavor was lost on me. The pasta was delicious, however, and garden kale was intriguing to me.
By this time, we were super full and the dessert menu was fairly blah to me, though we both agreed that the bananas foster seemed interesting. Once it came, our server turned out the lights (for a better picture, she told me – I think the blue flame says it all), poured Bacardi 151 over it, then set it on fire. In a word, this dessert – even without the ‘show’ – was amazing. The bananas were super caramelized on one side, with this intense burnt sugar crust; the “Creole cream cheese ice cream” (made in-house) was a great foil to the bananas and ice cream. It tasted slightly alcoholic, but not in a bad way whatsoever; pecans scattered around the plate added a nice crunch and I was extremely happy that I’d sucked it up and ordered dessert – despite the insanely full feeling I had well into the night.
Overall, the meal at Latil’s Landing was wonderful. Despite some pretentious guests seated near/around us (the chef came out at one point to speak with each table; some guests deigned to tell him how he “should” cook the filet mignon next time, while another couple told him they were from New York City even though moments earlier I’d heard them discussing his Kentucky background and her Ohio roots – the chef had been in NYC a few weeks prior to that, and they discussed restaurants while the couple named the wrong neighborhoods for the restaurants… ick) – or perhaps because of them – the entire meal, while upscale and posh, had a relaxed, casual feel to it. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would love to return at some point, maybe to try something new… or maybe to order the filet mignon. Butter basted meat?