Our food critic's name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years—and makes a delicious Beef Wellington.
I've always considered a visit to Latil's Landing at Houmas House Plantation a spectacular treat, and this time was no exception. Named for its original stewards, the Houmas Indians, the plantation comprises several buildings and grounds interspersed with enchanting gardens. Every corner percolates with romance and whispers of intimate liaisons. A man proposing marriage in such a setting would undoubtedly get a “Yes!”
Speaking of romance, guests should arrive well ahead of their reservation to allow time for an aperitif in the alluring Turtle Bar. Nestled in the former garçonnière—a bachelor pad for the unmarried men of the plantation, as it was improper in antebellum times for eligible men and women to live in the same house—the intimate space invites guests to linger over their pre-dinner elixirs.
Thirsts quenched, my companion and I strolled over to the restaurant. Spearheaded by Chef Jeremy Langlois, Latil's Landing is situated behind the mansion in the three-story French House, built by Alexander Latil in the 1770s. Located on the second floor, the two main dining rooms each have their own unique ambience and charm. The first is a softly lit space perfect for a communal dinner among friends, while the other, across the hall and dimly lit, is better suited for an intimate rendezvous.
Once seated, we were presented with an enjoyable amuse-bouche of smoked salmon with Cajun caviar, followed by an incredible basket of French and house-made lavash and Asiago breads with pecan cane syrup and roasted onion butters. We delved into the menu with abandon, ordering the Crab and Mango Cake and Roasted Oysters appetizers. The cake was creamy and bursting with crab, but the mango was undetectable. Roasted in the shell, the oysters were mixed with a Creole cream cheese mornay topped by an amazingly crisp, buttery topping. The salads were too tempting to pass up, so we each ordered one. The Quail Salad included a whole fried quail placed atop mixed greens dressed with piquant vinaigrette and accented by pickled quail eggs. Outstanding. The Roasted Beet and Crab Salad came with two scoops of divine lump crabmeat alongside slightly overdressed greens.
We chose red meat for entrees. Cooked perfectly, the filet was enhanced by an Abita Root Beer demi-glace and served with whimsical “tater-tots” of potato, chard and tasso. I found my companion's rack of lamb to be slightly gamey, but the accompanying grilled eggplant tart more than made up for the meat.
Full but craving sweets, we succumbed and requested two desserts. The Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding was a disappointment, with too much cinnamon, but we were delighted with the Chocolate Crème Brûlée. Decadent but not overwhelming, the creamy custard was delectably luscious—everything a chocolate dessert should be.
Surprising touches like the amuse-bouche, cranberry sorbet prepared Cosmopolitan-style with orange vodka, and dinnerware of beautiful Limoges china fashioned after the plantation's original pattern are what make Latil's Landing such a special and memorable place. During dinner, my companion declared, “I love this place. We should eat here more often.” I couldn't agree more.
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