It was a big eating weekend starting last Friday with a lunch so spectacular it rates among the greats. Our days are more leisurely since lockdown, because we do the show from home every day. It’s live weekdays 2-4 on WGSO AM 990, so that makes getting lunch a little tighter.
Especially when we decided to make it more ambitious.
We didn’t plan to drive to Hammond for lunch until we saw an Instagram post that morning from Jacmel Inn about their daily lunch special for $15.
Owner Paul Murphy is always boasting about his chef Josh Garic and his not-quite-unbiased opinion that Josh is the best chef on the north shore. Paul Murphy is a skilled restaurateur with an impeccable palate, and I agreed that his chef was a contender. Now I couldn’t agree more. It’s no idle boast. That $15 lunch was the stuff of dreams.
If I am checking something out, I am going to check it out. I was going to stick to the offered menu for $15. Tom doesn’t do that. The lunch three-course prix fixe has four choices of entrees, two appetizers and a single dessert.
Tom immediately veered from the plan and ordered the onion soup. First course on the prix fixe was soup or salad. The soup du jour was a creamy corn bisque. (Yawn) I thought, until I had the first spoon. The complexity of flavor was nothing I have had before. How could a simple creamy soup taste like this? A healthy dose of pepper that wasn’t basic black pepper, and a blend of other flavors came together in such perfect harmony it made a powerful statement. This was utterly fabulous, but not as good as the basic onion soup Tom ordered as a first course, deviating from the prix fixe.
There was absolutely nothing basic about this onion soup. I could tell from first glance that this would be the onion soup of my life. It was dark, hearty, and richly aromatic from a beef and wine reduction, with crusty croutons peeking out from bubbling cheese, little shreds of oxtail meat mingling with the caramelized onion. This came in a large bowl, but it was not large enough to accommodate the desire to eat it indefinitely.
No one got a salad, though those looked great too.
There were four choices of entrees on Friday, and one of them was a Reuben, which seemed like a waste in a place like this. Normally I would jump on a grilled salmon over lentils, but for some odd reason Tom ordered that. I was left with a choice of paneed pork with corn maquechoux and sweet and sour tomatoes, or a basic boring chicken breast. Except this was not a basic boring chicken breast, it too was the chicken breast of my life. I have never had anything like this. A boneless skinless chicken breast has very little potential I think, but clearly I had heretofore missed the possibilities. This was chicken literally cooked to perfection, and I don’t mean that in the usual trite way. It was not the slightest bit undercooked, and it was not the slightest bit overcooked.
It rested atop a bed of basic grits, but again, there wasn’t a thing basic about them. Also perfectly cooked, they were topped with a layer of collard greens. These too were sensational.There was a thin layer of pot liquor which pooled at the edge of this dish. It was absolutely gorgeous, and tasted even better. I just couldn't believe this.
Tom was equally enthralled with his salmon and lentils, though I wasn’t the least bit jealous. I was so busy devouring mine a quick bite of his was enough. I was glad he took my usual, or I would have missed the spectacular.
There was a chocolate terrine for dessert, and it too was the height of luxury. Deep chocolate creamy center with a dark chocolate shell. Not really Tom’s thing, but it was certainly mine. So rich I took it home after one bite to savor later.
We ran into Mick Zatarain, who lives just steps away and is sort of a fixture here. It is always nice to see him. Paul was not there, but I know that the next time we see him he will sing the praises of Josh Garic. And instead of nodding noncommittally, we will wholeheartedly concur.
903 E Morris Ave
Lunch Wed-Fri 11:30-2
Dinner Tu-Th 5-9 Fri/Sat till 10