Tasty Travels: Latil’s Landing

by Emily on December 30, 2010

Before the hectic holidays began, my boyfriend and I decided that a quick get-a-way, just the two of us, was necessary to ease our minds of any seasonal stress.¬† So one week before Christmas we packed our bags (and the fancy new camera!), drove one hour outside of New Orleans to Vacherie, LA, and spent the weekend visiting the historic Louisiana Plantations. In addition to renting a cabin at Oak Alley Plantation,we made dinner reservations at Latil’s Landing, and signed ourselves up for the Sunday champagne brunch at Oak Alley before having to head back home.

We spent Friday evening getting settled in our cabin, walking the grounds of Oak Alley (and yes, plantations are super creepy at night), and having dinner and drinks with the locals at DJ’s Bar and Grill. On Saturday we toured Oak Alley, Laura, and San Francisco Plantations, stopping for a quick lunch of seafood gumbo and potato salad at B&C’s Seafood Market. Then Saturday night it was off to Latil’s Landing in the beautifully historic Houmas House to sample Chef Jeremy Langlois’ seven-course tasting menu, which would end up being one of the most memorable meals of our entire lives.

{Houmas House}

{The BF took this picture as I was glancing over the menu}

I had read on The New Orleans Menu, that the holidays were the best time to dine at Latil’s, considering the festive decor and general all-around spirit of this historic landmark. Tom Fitzmorris was certainly right. The restaurant is located in the original house, which dates back to the 1700s, before the bigger house was even built. The walls are cracked and worn, exposing the plaster, brick, and wood of the past. Our dining room walls sported a bright red coat of paint and lots of ornate gold framed artwork and pictures, which only added to the festive feel of the whole experience. Wine bottles are stored the old-fashioned way–in the original cistern located just outside of the house. My only atmospheric complaint is that it was quite cold in our dining room, causing many diners to keep their coats on. I had read that Latil’s original wood fireplaces were still intact, so I couldn’t help but wonder why the thirty-something degree weather outside wasn’t reason enough to light them.

Our seven-course meal began with Smoked Bay Scallops in a Rice Paper Bowl with Fried Fettuccine. These small, succulent scallops had a depth of flavor that went beyond the obvious. Not only were they smoky, but the light scallion sauce they were tossed with brought out their buttery and briny flavors as well. The rice paper was delightfully salty and the fettuccine was fun to eat. A dollop of creamy goat cheese was used to stabilize the rice paper bowl to the plate, and I fully enjoyed combining the cheese, scallops, and rice paper for a textural treat. This dish was both unexpected in its eccentric presentation and in the combination of flavors.

Next was the Turtle Soup. Aside from its luke-warm temperature, this soup was fantastic. Thick, hearty pieces of meat were swimming in a rich tomato broth, topped with scallions and slice of hard-boiled egg. The hint of lemon and splash of sherry rounded out everything for that classic flavor.

The salad of the evening was one that featured Roasted Quail. Neither one of us thought this dish was memorable, even though it was quite good. The quail was semi-boneless, which I overheard another diner equate to being “semi-pregnant.” She was right, it’s so frustrating to try and eat bone-in quail at a fine dining restaurant without becoming completely frazzled. The portion of meat is minuscule anyway, so why not just do the work for us and get rid of the bones? Considering that most of the flavor came from the sweet balsamic glaze that was drizzled over the quail and the greens, I would have been equally as pleased with a seared boneless duck breast. I digress.

The intermezzo sorbet of the evening was a Cosmopolitan Sorbet, featuring cranberry sorbet with a splash of Grey Goose L’Orange. Despite its quite “girly” appearance, this was a beautiful, and seasonally appropriate palate cleanser.

The main course was the best course of the night. The Braised Veal Cheek with Butternut Squash Puree, Asparagus, Fried Spinach, and Beet Jam had both of us completely “wowed.” I tried the veal cheek alone first, which broke off into tender pieces with minimal effort, and the flavor was rich, savory, and caramelized. The pureed squash was earthy and buttery, with a lush, velvety mouth-feel. Crispy fried spinach brought texture and slight saltiness, while the beet jam added a sweet splash of color. Eating this reminded me of my first veal cheek experience here. It’s hard to deny the exquisiteness of veal and pork cheeks when they’re done this well.

The second to last course was a trio of cheeses. A Blue Cheese Lollipop with Fig Marmalade on the left, Toasted Multi-Grain Bread with Melted White Cheddar and a Blueberry in the middle, and a slice of Creamy Brie with Diced Louisiana Strawberries on the right. Each cheese featured an appropriate fruit pairing, especially the brie–the simple perfection and power of a sweet, tart Louisiana strawberry should never go overlooked. The brie and strawberry pairing required no brilliance, just the simple knowledge of what really works.

We were each given a different dessert, which was quite exciting. The one placed in front of me was the Bananas Foster, “flambeed” at the table. The other was a trio of Chocolate Cake, Poached Pear, and Chocolate Mousse with Tapioca Pearls and Fresh Whipped Cream. The bananas foster was the best of the two, but so rich that I only had a few bites before I was pushing the plate away.

I’m so glad we finally made the trip to the plantations and had a chance to eat at the historic Latil’s Landing. It’s amazing how far away you feel from the “big city” even though you’re only an hour away. Louisiana’s rich history plays a consequential role in the culmination of the amazing food we have come to know and love. I have a new appreciation for the hard labor, sacrifices, and undeniable strength of those who not only helped to build these beautiful plantations, but who also sought to preserve them for hundreds of years. Seeing the places where these people–of all ethnic backgrounds–slept, worked, dined, relaxed, and died was truly a gratifying experience. The next time I sink my teeth into a big bowl of gumbo, I’ll have a whole new respect for the work that went into creating it. How’s that for a new year’s resolution? Respect. Your. Food. It’s so simple but oh, so important. Have a delicious and happy new year!

{The BF and I outside of Latil’s Landing}

{Sunshine on our last day at Oak Alley. The pineapple was a symbol of welcoming.}

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

NOJuju December 31, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Beautiful flambé photo! I have yet to visit any plantations but I hope to change that this year. I never even thought to make it a food trip too. Good thinking.

Emily January 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

NOJuju, thank you! You should definitely make the trip. Unfortunately, the food at Oak Alley was less than impressive, but Latil’s Landing was completely worth the drive and the money.

liese January 2, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Thanks for the mention! I hope to see you guys again soon!
<3 liese, your favorite bartender at DJs

Emily January 4, 2011 at 9:45 am

Liese, we had so much fun with y’all! Thanks for keeping the drinks and conversation flowing. Have a happy new year!

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