Dining Travels Take Us To Hammond

Tom Fitzmorris June 08, 2019 09:00 Road trips

It’s summertime and the livin‘ is easy, right? At least the schedule may have slowed a bit. Or none of that is true and you’re remembering life in school and it’s out. Whatever. Road trips are much more likely to happen in the summer. In this house, traveling to eat is normal. MA will often pitch a trip to Baton Rouge or the Gulf Coast for dinner.

I had a brief show today, and ML had been in the kitchen all morning with another cake order and extra cake for a tasting for a potential client. All of us had eaten nothing but cake scraps all day. Mary Ann was helping with packing the cakes and cleaning the kitchen. When ML left, we got into the car to head to BR Prime in Beau Rivage. This is a great steakhouse and on MA’s list of favorites. She loves the hip LA kind of vibe here as much as the food.

As we approached I  12, we decided to turn right toward the west and Hammond, rather than left and east to Mississippi. If it’s west it must be Jacmel Inn, which is always a special place for us.

Jacmel Inn is where I learned I was going to be a dad. MA loves the place,  which is a surprise because it’s not her usual favorite restaurant design. It’s a house dating back to the late 19th century, and it is a warren of rooms cobbled together.

Owner Paul Murphy and I go back a very long way, to my bachelor days at Martin Wine Cellar wine tastings. He owns three very good restaurants, two in Hammond and one in old Mandeville. Each is unique with only one common element; they are all well-run and delicious. Brady’s is much more of a college pub in downtown Hammond, and Nuvolari’s in old Mandeville is a smart casual restaurant in a cool old building with contemporary Italian-American food. Jacmel is the flagship of the operation, and the most upscale with more adventuresome food.

Paul came over to chat and to invite us to his wine dinner this Tuesday the 11th. Wine lovers with a free evening would do well to jump on this. Paul Murphy is a serious oenophile, and indeed most of the conversation was about his recent travels in the wine regions of Spain.

He didn’t come over until we had pretty much finished the delicious too-many courses we ordered. The bread here is really great too, coming out warm and soft in the middle, with a great toast and crunch on the outside. Loaded with seeds. Randazzo’s, he confessed.

We started with a crab cake, which is a real crab cake, not a deep-fried crab stuffing. It had a tiny tomato halved and pickled vegetables cascading off the top, and sat in a pool of delicious white remoulade sauce. MA got wild mushroom and crab agnolotti with an oyster fumee. This was followed by what we thought was cauliflower soup, but it switched to mushroom while we were there. Either would have been great, and this was. Thick and creamy and with bits of mushroom. Chef Josh Garic does not mess around in the kitchen. 

For an entree I couldn’t resist mussels, the evening special. I can never resist it when mussels are the evening special. Really unique presentation which included chicken sausage and flat strips of fried potatoes. A quite unusual broth became a sort of a soup for Mary Ann, who was really intrigued by the complex flavors. The entree course for her was something she can’t resist on a menu, grilled salmon, but only if the waiter answers her question, “Is it wild caught?,” with the proper answer. It was a little thinner than usual, and came with cauliflower and a cauliflower puree. She was a little disappointed in this. Not one of the better versions of her requisite entree she has seen.

We were completely full by now, having started with three portions of bread, so we didn’t have dessert. And Paul was there and the conversation was too good. Ever-curious Mary Ann asked Paul how a guy from Elmira, New York winds up in Hammond. Hint: It ends where it always does-a girl is involved-but first a college friend, a brother, and SLU.

It was not as busy as usual, which Paul attributed to the restaurant scene in Hammond blowing up. He's been there 42 years. It was a little sleepier then. There are now 28 restaurants in downtown Hammond. College town. The hot new one is 113, a collaboration between Saul Rubio of La Caretta fame, and one of the Wongs of Trey Yuen fame. It is not Mexican, or Chinese. Just really, really hip. I’ll let Mary Ann look into that one. Like Paul Murphy, I’m old school.

Jacmel Inn

903 E  Morris St Hammond   70401

985-542-0043

Lunch Wed - Fri 11:30am-2pm

Dinner  Tu -Th 5-9pm  Friday & Saturday till 10pm

Brunch Sunday 11-3

jacmelinn.com

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