Last weekend seemed like a good day to take a drive, which is not unusual for us. We learned from our IG staffer that the Houmas House had a fried chicken and jambalaya special, which was not a good enough reason to drive that far, but I have been wanting to get back there for a while.
Jeremy Langlois is an excellent chef. He has been with owner Kevin Kelly for many years, with a brief time off. He was wet behind the ears when he started, and has grown into his skill. We love his food and wanted to have it again.
The place itself is worth a trip. Kevin has not stopped improving the place since he purchased it many years ago. The gardens are spectacular, and he has added a number of buildings to this very alive relic of the past.
Kevin’s father was in the warehouse business, and he inherited a number of warehouses, which he keeps filled with acquisitions from his travels around the world. Staircases and doors from properties all over the world have found their way into additional buildings. He crafted a tiny bar called The Turtle Bar from a garconniere on the property. (A garconierre looks like a small silo that was used by boys reaching puberty who had to leave the house if there were girls living inside.) The bar meanders into a large space with high ceilings called the Carriage House. The walls are covered with interesting things. We ate in a small side room decorated with stuffed heads-a hunter’s bounty.
The menu was very appealing, and I started to question my reason for coming. Did I really want the fried chicken and jambalaya, or any of a half dozen other options now calling to me? Tom had no such limitations, and he surprised me by starting with a crab cake. That’s usually my job. But I was put off by the menu description which included mango. In a crab cake? As it turned out, Yes!!!
This was delicious. I was delighted it was as large as it was, because I definitely helped Tom with it. The remoulade on it was spicy and creamy and the light vinaigrette on some greens beneath it made for a great blend of flavors and textures. It was a bargain too at $14.
The menu looked good enough to expand my order. I also got an appetizer soup of curried pumpkin with corn and crab. It was very tasty but a little gloopy. Still, I was glad I got it.
I went ahead with the order I came for. The fried chicken was all dark meat, which I love, but I was a little surprised that it wasn’t a combination of white and dark meat. It was light and crispy, though the crust fell off a bit. The chicken was a little small, which Tom is right about - better than a larger artificially plumped-up bird.
Under the chicken was a pile of jambalaya. It was an authentic Cajun style, with pieces of pork and andouille as well as chicken. The andouille was definitely Wayne Jacob’s which is distinctively larger in circumference. Each slice was really thin and quartered. Wayne Jacobs is known as “the” epitome of what andouille is supposed to be. It’s a little too smokey for my taste but, I liked this jambalaya well enough even though it was less spicy than I expected.
Tom went with a dish of fried eggplant medallions stacked high, interspersed with a crab meat cream sauce. This was served with two spears each of asparagus and carrot.
Good thing Tom got it because the eggplant was way too thick for my taste. It was crunchy and greaseless and so loaded with lump crab meat the $25 price tag was justified.
Tom kept going after this course, settling on a really large serving of coffee ice cream with some thin cigar-shaped vanilla biscuits. He finished it all, which was quite a feat.
We left the Carriage House and walked around the property a little, passing other buildings, like the space where Sunday brunch is served, which features a Civil War submarine. The real carriage house, the restaurant Latil’s Landing, has reopened and is sexy as ever. The new museum of the river with corresponding walkway to the levee is also open, as is the amphitheatre Kevin had been planning for years.
When we left it was decided that we should go back via the River Road. It was like a trip of memories. The summer of 2005 our little family of four was taking weekly road trips to destinations as far away as Vicksburg. We went this route on one of them, riveted by the mountain of gypsum, interested in Tom’s proud showing of Manresa (his favorite place in the world) and the lunch we had at Hymel’s, the roadside diner and gas station owned by the extended family of Jude’s friend from school. It was sad to see it closed down on this trip. Also closed was the tiny church of St. Michael, where our family stopped to see the little grotto of bagasse (a gypsum byproduct.) This was all bittersweet, more bitter than sweet. The week after that trip our family’s life changed forever. Katrina struck. And last weekend, that all seemed a lifetime away. (It was.)
It was my intention to stop in at Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse, but we somehow miscalculated its location, all of a sudden coming up on the spillway. After we crossed it we would have had to double back to the smokehouse. We passed on that idea and headed for the Causeway.