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Diary For Saturday, 11/18/2018: Jacmel Inn, Hammond’s Most Prominent Restaurant.DiningDiarySquare-150x150
Diary For Saturday, 11/18/2018: Jacmel Inn, Hammond’s Most Prominent Restaurant. It was a slow evening at Jacmel Inn, but for a reason understood by everyone: there was an LSU football game in Baton Rouge, and that’s close enough to Hammond to affect everything.

Co-owner Paul Murphy didn’t seemed to be concerned. As usual, a lot of his attention was directed to a wine he thought I would enjoy, particularly if MA or I had a steak for dinner. It was a blend of big red, Cabernet-like wines, including Grenache, Carmenere, Marlot, and, if I remember rightly, some actual Cabernet. Indeed it worked with the steak (New York strip, but more on that in a moment), as well as with the two pasta dishes served as preliminary courses (after an amuse-bouche involving beets, as required by law, it seems).

Entrance to the 1880s-era main room at Jacmel Inn

Those bowls of pasta (big enough that I thought at first that they were the for the whole dining room) were the best part of the dinner. One of them was a scattering bolognese ground beef and pappardelle in a red-brown sauce. The other was sweet potato agnoletti with shred of beef short rib. A much smaller version, but just as good, thanks to delicious pasta that always pulls dishes like this together.

Mary Ann–the love of my life–had the fish special of the day. It was a really good one: sheepshead, a Gulf fish that the fishermen don’t like to fool with. It’s an automatic order whenever I encounter it, with its light color, texture, and elegant flavor. This one was seared and topped with a butter sauce, Brussels sprouts, lentils and carrots. It even went well with that four-grape bottle that Paul Murphy bestowed on us.

Paul is quick to to praise Jacmel’s steaks, which have been a specialty (but not to the exclusion of everything else on the menu) throughout the restaurant’s history. This one was a fourteen-ounce sirloin strip about an inch thick. It was the perfect size to benefit from an idea I have been pushing for many years. If the steak had been sliced twice as thick but half as wide, it would be better and juicier. It would be shaped like a filet but without some of the gristly edges. It would look smaller but taste better. I’ve only occasionally sold this idea to restaurateurs. I call it the New Orleans Strip, which sounds as alluring as it tastes. Unfortunately, to cut a steak that way would force the menu price up a bit, which is probably why restaurants that have tried my idea don’t keep it for long. I only get it at home. The cut is perfectly executed by the Big Green Egg.

We ended dinner with a freshly-made creme brulee, crusty with sugar on top and a little warm in the center. And coffee. In a place like this I was expecting Italian-style coffee (along the lines of cappuccino). But they don’t.

The server was a delightful young woman who, once she realized that ninety percent of the things I say to restaurant staff is a joke, played along.

Another reason were among loosely populated dining room a small the dining room wasn’t busy was that we were there pretty early in the evening. Mary Ann spent most of the day with the director in rehearsal, pulling together the elements of her new children’s television program. It’s delightful, and explains why our kids are as creative and happy as they are.
Jacmel Inn. Hammond: 903 E Morris. 985-542-0043.


Peas In A Roux

This is an old, nearly-extinct local dish that intrigues me, especially after Arnaud’s revived it for awhile. I remember that the school cafeteria served peas like this once in awhile, and that my mother may have even done so. After failing a couple of times to get it right, I found that the roux has to be very loosely bound with a vegetable stock.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. mild garlic-flavored Tabasco
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 cups large peas, frozen

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and sprinkle in the flour. Make a roux by continually stirring the mixture until it’s light brown.
2. Lower the heat to almost nothing. Add the mushrooms and green onions, and stir lightly to blend into the roux. The heat of the roux will cook the mushrooms and onions, and the vegetables will bring the heat of the roux down so it won’t brown any further.
3. Add the Worcestershire, Tabasco, and chicken stock. Whisk to blend into a smooth sauce.
4. Add the peas and raise the heat a little. Cook until the peas are heated through, stirring while they’re still frozen to blend them into the sauce. The sauce should have about the texture of gumbo. If it’s too thick, add a little more stock or water.
5. Check the seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serves eight to twelve.

AlmanacSquare November 20, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Thanksgiving: Nov. 23
Christmas: Dec. 25
Eat Club @ Roosevelt. Nov. 28.
New Year’s Eve: December 31

Food Calendar

National Roast Duck Day. Roast duck is a dish that only ambitious diners order in restaurants. Chef give their duck dish added attention for that reason. It also alerts the kitchen that the table is likely to be more discriminating than most. So make sure somebody orders duck at your table tonight.

It’s also a great enhancement to the Thanksgiving table.

Three Days Till Thanksgiving

This would be the perfect day to buy the ham, if you’ll have one on the table for Thanksgiving. You don’t need to do anything to it beforehand, but it’s such an important part of our dinner that I I can’t take the risk that I can’t find a Chisesi ham in the stores. Just keep it in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving morning, and you’ll have that potential problem avoided. I’ve already told you, but as each day passes, the chances of your getting a desirable restaurant reservation for Thanksgiving dwindles.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Rabbit Hash, Kentucky overlooks the Ohio River, some twenty miles downstream from Cincinnati. It makes much of itself as a quaint, historic little town, founded in 1831. Among other things, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Rabbit Hash is famous (enough to have an answer about this on Jeopardy) for having as its mayor a black dog named Junior. All this comes from the town’s amusing web site. The center of the town is the Rabbit Hash General Store, which has its own web site. It has been a working store since the town’s founding. You may as well get a snack there, because all the nearby restaurants are across the river in Rising Sun, Indiana, and there’s no nearby crossing.

Edible Dictionary

jumble, n.–A cookie made by mixing a variety of nuts in a butter cookie dough, usually flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves. The cookie (or maybe just the name, which John Mariani in his Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink says is sometimes spelled “jumbal”) is one of the first of incontestable American origin. Recipes for it go back to 1827. They can be made with a cookie cutter, or as drop cookies.

Annals Of Popular Food

Today in 1965, Kellogg’s introduced Pop Tarts. They were unfrosted, thin, flat rectangles of something like pie dough filled with an even thinner layer of something like preserves. The original flavors were strawberry, blueberry, apple-currant, and cinnamon. They were a big hit, especially with kids, and most especially with kids who’d been forced to eat the likes of raisin bran for breakfast until that time. The frosting was added a couple of years later, sweetening the Tarts further and, of course, making them even more popular.

Today’s Worst Flavor

Today in 2002, the State of Louisiana set a bounty on nutria, at four dollars per animal. The gigantic rodent, introduced to the state’s swamps by Edward McIlhenny of Tabasco fame, found the place very much to its liking and continues to eat vegetation voraciously, such that marshes are denuded in spots. An earlier effort to promote the eating of nutria meat–in which quite a few local chefs were involved–failed badly. With good reason: in texture, appearance, and taste, nutria is unappetizing. What would you expect from a big orange-toothed rat? The things are still running amok.

Food Namesakes

Alistair Cooke, long-time host of Masterpiece Theatre, was born in Britain today in 1908. . . A movie called Nuts, starring Barbra Streisand, premiered today in 1987. . . Drew Ginn, Australian Olympic rower in 1996, was born today in 1974. . . Dutch World War II resistance fighter Ferdinand van der Ham was born today in 1916. How appropriate! . . Pro football quarterback Greg Cook was born today in 1946.

In a class by himself was R.W. “Johnny” Apple, who not only has a food name but was a food writer, mostly for the New York Times. That interest was secondary to his main gig, which was as a political reporter and analyst for the Times. His writing about food, however, was clearly fired by real passion. He was as knowledgeable about where to eat anywhere (including New Orleans, where he visited often) as any of the Times’s restaurant critics. Today is his birthday, in 1934. He died in 2006.

Words To Eat By

“More than any other in Western Europe, Britain remains a country where a traveler has to think twice before indulging in the ordinary food of ordinary people.”–Joseph Lelyveld, long-time editor of the New York Times.

Words To Drink By

“It is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man, that he is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety.–

Thanksgiving is not the busiest day in the year for restaurants, but it is the time when things have a way of becoming most frantic. It’s also a day in which finding a reservation is most difficult. Calling ahead months is a very good idea, particularly if you’re planning on having Thanksgiving dinner with many family members and friends. Tables in famous restaurants are also hard to nail down. Finally, if what you want from the restaurant is a big feast, it’s essential to make your reservation in, say, September or earlier.

There is an escape if you still don’t have a reservation a few days ahead of Turkey Day. When you call a few says or hours before dinner time, laugh to show that you understand how dear Thanksgiving tables are, then ask whether there are any last-minute cancellations you can fill. That works even for the toughest seats.

The Thanksgiving experience is is different from other meals in other ways. Buffets–which have almost disappeared from fine dining in recent years–have a way of popping up in many restaurants. Most of these are high-end hotels. If you go that route, know that it will be much more expensive than what you remember from years ago. It may even go higher than $100.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving has a way of inspiring restaurants to create special menus that may be surprising. Three courses for $around 50 have been common in recent years. And there are always children’s menus.

All that said, here is my list of the forty best restaurants for Thanksgiving in 2018. Enjoy!

Andrea’s. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583. Special menu: three courses, $40. Regular menu also available. 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Annadele Plantation. Covington: 71518 Chestnut St. 985-809-7669. Three courses from a special menu, $48, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Arnaud’s. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. A special four-course menu for $47, with a mix of traditional Thanksgiving dishes and Arnaud’s specialties.

Bistreaux. French Quarter: 1001 Toulouse St. 504-586-8000.

Borgne. CBD: 601 Loyola Ave (Hyatt Regency Hotel). 504-613-3860. A special four-course menu, plus a limited regular menu.

Bourbon House. French Quarter: 144 Bourbon. 504-522-0111. Regular menu and Thanksgiving specials, entrees $26-32.

Brennan’s. French Quarter: 417 Royal. 504-525-9711.

Broussard’s. French Quarter: 819 Conti. 504-581-3866. An especially beautiful setting, with the courtyard open.

Chophouse. CBD: 322 Magazine St. 504-522-7902. This high-end steakhouse is promoting its steaks as an alternative to the standard turkey dinner. If that appeals to you, there they are. Handsome place.

Commander’s Palace. Uptown 1: Garden District & Environs: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. Special menu. Very likely already to be sold out.

Compere Lapin. CBD: 535 Tchoupitoulas. 504-599-2119.

Criollo. French Quarter: 214 Royal. 504-523-3341. The new restaurant in the Monteleone Hotel serves its second Thanksgiving. It’s a handsome restaurant with an imaginative, current New Orleans-style menu.

Crystal Room. CBD: Le Pavillon Hotel, 901 Poydras. 504-581-3111. Buffet, a bit less expensive than in the other hotels, and for that reason fills up early. Food is good as buffets go.

Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. French Quarter: 716 Iberville. 504-522-2467. Regular dinner menu and Thanksgiving specials, 3-9 p.m.

Five Happiness. A Chinese restaurant on Thanksgiving Day? Yes. What happens here is that people who either missed the turkey dinner or already had one earlier in the day. Five Happiness is open into the evening for those people, and is very busy.) Mid-City: 3605 S Carrollton. 504-482-3935.

Fleming’s Steak House. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3064 N. Causeway Blvd.. 504-799-0335.

Latil’s Landing. River Parishes: In Houmas House Plantation. 225-473-9380. This is the grand restaurant in Houmas House Plantation, on the River Road, halfway from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Buffet, noon-4 p.m. $55, $25 children.

Lebanon’s Cafe. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 1500 S Carrollton Ave. 504-862-6200.

Lüke. CBD: 333 St Charles Ave. 504-378-2840. John Besh’s most popular restaurant. Special menu.

M Bistro. French Quarter: 921 Canal. 504-524-1331. The flagship dining room of the Ritz-Carlton offers a high-end buffet 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Maple Street Cafe. Uptown 4: Riverbend, Carrollton & Broadmoor: 7623 Maple. 504-314-9003. Both locations, special menu. Three courses, $25, $13 children. under 12. Noon-7 p.m.

Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078. Special menu, featuring free-range turkeys. Noon-8 p.m.

Muriel’s. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Special menu, three courses, $45.

Palace Cafe. French Quarter: 605 Canal. 504-523-1661. Regular menu with Thanksgiving specials (entrees $26-42), 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Ralph’s On The Park. City Park Area: 900 City Park Ave. 504-488-1000. Very substantial special menu, three courses $46-54.

Red Fish Grill. French Quarter: 115 Bourbon. 504-598-1200. Buffet 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., $47, kids $15, under 6 free. It’s not an enormous hotel-style buffet, but the food is fresh and distinctly Creole. Lots going on for the kids.

Restaurant des Familles. Marrero To Lafitte: 7163 Barataria Blvd. 504-689-7834. Way out on the bayou twenty minutes from downtown, and quite an environment. Special menu.

Rib Room. French Quarter: 621 St Louis St83. 504-529-7045. Special menu. four courses, $37-51. 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Roosevelt Hotel. CBD: 123 Baronne. The Roosevelt Hotel serves Thanksgiving dinner in the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom, the grandest and largest space in the hotel. In addition to the buffet, there are several other action stations cooking to order. On a smaller scale, the hotel’s Fountain Lounge will also be open.

Roux On Orleans. French Quarter: 717 Orleans (Bourbon Orleans Hotel). 504-571-4604. The restaurant of the Bourbon Orleans, a block in back of St. Louis Cathedral. Buffet from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Adults $59, tax and tip included (!).

Royal Sonesta Ballroom. French Quarter: 300 Bourbon. 504-553-2278. Now that R’evolution is the main dining room at the Sonesta, the holidays bring forth special arrangements. The buffet you remember from the days of Begue’s is now in the hotel’s big ballroom. $75 is the price; $35 6-12 years, free under that. Seatings begin at 10:30 a.m., with the final seating at 1:30 p.m.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3633 Veterans Blvd. 504-888-3600. Thanksgiving specials ($40, complete dinner) and regular menu, both locations. Noon-8 p.m.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. CBD: 525 Fulton St. 504-587-7099. Thanksgiving specials ($40, complete dinner) and regular menu, both locations. Noon-8 p.m.

Tujague’s. French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676. Usual table d’hote dinner, with fresh turkey and other Thanksgiving dishes, about $40. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Vacherie. French Quarter: 827 1/2 Toulouse St. 504-207-4532. This boutique hotel in the French Quarter (it’s where Louis XVI used to be) hase continually expanded the reach and goodness of its restaurant, particularly on holidays. Thanksgiving brings a buffet from noon until 4 p.m. The price is $39 adults, $18 children.

Windsor Court Grill Room. CBD: 300 Gravier. 504-522-1994. Special menu, four courses, $95. It’s offered all day long: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

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