Photo by Brenda Maitland
Crab and mango cake with chipotle remoulade sauce from Chef Jeremy Langlois.
No dining event—not even high tea—is missing amid Houmas House’s numerous culinary venues
South Louisiana’s winding River Road twists and turns along the mighty Mississippi, offering arresting views of antebellum mansions, ancient oak trees, citrus orchards, pecan groves, lush gardens, and historic sights around every curve.
Although there’s much to see on this time-warped journey, a luxurious, end-of-the-day destination with deluxe accommodations would be extremely desirable—especially one with casual as well as fine dining, superb wines, and superior bar service. This kind of treatment can make all the difference in visitors’ comfort.
Among all the grand estates along Louisiana’s River Road, Houmas House Plantation and Gardens offers all these essential indulgences on the grounds, plus an amazing new development: The Inn at Houmas House where overnight guests can rest in sumptuous surroundings. Kevin Kelly, Houmas House owner, researched and planned the project over the past seven years, fashioning the twenty-one cottages that make up the “inn” after historic structures that formerly graced a plantation nearby. “We have carefully appointed each room with furnishings in keeping with the grand period of the Houmas House mansion when it was known as the ‘Sugar Palace,’” he said.
The cottages border an ancient alley of live oak trees and gardens located atop the original levee which protected the property and are situated just steps away from the massive levee currently overlooking the Mississippi River. A private trail atop the lower levee can accommodate guests’ leisurely walks or stimulating runs.
Modern comforts exist alongside precious antiques and rare art in the inn’s charming home-away-from-home environment. Many of the cottages are equipped with sitting rooms and even flat screen TVs. The granite and marble bathrooms offer a spa-like quality with plush towels and toiletries by L’Occitane, among other attractive extras.
Each cottage has its own front porch and rocker where guests can have a cup of coffee in the morning.
“We are especially proud of the complimentary breakfast for inn guests prepared in our new Carriage House restaurant,“ said Kelly. Executive Chef Jeremy Langlois creates an amazing array of breakfast creations, many old favorites, but with his special touches.
Dishes alternately include grits and grillades and pain perdu; shrimp and tasso frittata; poached eggs and grilled andouille sausage over fried eggplant with Hollandaise sauce; smoked duck and sweet potato hash “with perhaps a poached egg nestled in the center,” said Langlois.” The duck is sugar-cured, like ham,” he explained.
Other breakfast and brunch dishes served are eggs Creole, bananas Foster pain perdu, mint julep crème brulée, and sweet potato bread pudding with crème Anglaise, said Langlois. Sides such as scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, and mimosa biscuits—made with Champagne and orange zest injected into the dough, according to Langlois—are often available. Try the biscuits spread with Langlois’ cane syrup and pecan butter, served during breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
After breakfast, overnighters can take advantage of a complimentary tour of the mansion as an amenity of their stay on the property.
The multi-million-dollar renovation of Houmas House Plantation and Gardens—undertaken by Kelly, a New Orleans businessman, investor, art collector, and historian who now makes the restored mansion his home—is a wonder to behold. These extraordinary works of art, antiques, magnificent mirrors, and period touches, situated amid the glorious architectural restoration itself, are enough to make one gasp.
For more than twenty-five years, Kelly has sought out, researched, and collected art from around the globe, with the Houmas House restoration as his crowning achievement…so far. When the previous owners offered the property, remaining artifacts, and historical documents for sale in 2003, Kelly relished the opportunity to take on such an extensive—and expensive—endeavor.
After the mansion tour, guests may be ready for a mini-stroll, taking in the verdant gardens, ponds, outdoor seating, and impressive statuary on the grounds of the thirty-eight-acre property. Those healthy vegetable, herb, and flowering gardens are the work of Craig Black, Houmas House gardener for the past twenty years.
“He’s responsible for keeping up all the grounds, rotating the vast vegetable gardens four times a year to replenish them with seasonal varieties,” said Langlois, who values the opportunities to use fresh, home-grown products in his dishes. For example, last month, winter’s cabbage patch supplied all the cabbage needed to prepare the featured corned beef and cabbage soup for the weekend’s St. Paddy’s Day celebration activities.
The use of local ingredients even extends to beverages. Chef Langlois added a new twist to his traditional corned beef and cabbage soup spiked with a hardy brew by switching from Ireland’s Guinness to Abita Turbodog, a dark stout.
“We dedicate one garden just for our tomatoes,” said Langlois, who earlier this year had the distinction of serving as guest chef at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City.
“Craig plants over twenty varieties, and we use as many as we can during the season,” said Langlois. “The Black Russian tomatoes are typically a key ingredient in the crawfish tomato risotto. Golden Boys are ideal for a golden marinara sauce with the panéed chicken as a lunch dish on the Café Burnside menu,” he continued. “Of course, Creole tomatoes, served at room temperature with just salt and pepper, are traditional.”
Langlois likes to use sweet potatoes, especially in some soups, instead of white potatoes because they’re grown regionally.
According to Langlois, Houmas House has a beehive located in a corner on the property that produces all the honey used by the plantation’s restaurants—and then some! The beekeeper that collects and processes the honey harvests enough that the excess can be purchased in the Houmas House gift shop.
In addition to the new inn, momentum to meet increased visitor requests over the past few years has produced several new dining venues on the grounds.
Burnside Café is the quintessential lunch spot, in an appealing setting with a pleasant ambience and spectacular garden views. Soups, salads, sandwiches, and classic South Louisiana fare such as eggplant Napoleon with jumbo lump crabmeat are featured. Another dish, pan-seared drum with asparagus and red pepper, is served with a topping of sautéed crawfish.
Although the fine-dining Latil’s Landing is Houmas House’s signature dinner venue, the Carriage House was added as an extension of the Turtle Bar—via the charming art-laden carriage way—situated in one of the two lovely garçonnières on the property.
Guests can enjoy a more casual dinner at the restaurant from 6 pm until 10 pm daily, ordering from a menu Chef Langlois created especially for Carriage House. A specialty to note is the shrimp aubergine with jumbo Gulf shrimp sautéed in a roasted red bell pepper cream sauce and served over medallions of fried eggplant.
A sweet tea-brined grilled pork tenderloin with celery root mash, braised Swiss chard, and smoked tomato jus is another favorite entrée. The restaurant also serves breakfast from 8 am until 10 am daily and offers a splendid tea from 2 pm until 4:30 pm. Advance reservations are required.
Latil’s Landing, located in the 1770s French house erected by Alexander Latil, an early owner of the property, is composed of five small dining rooms. The 230-year-old structure retains the original beamed ceilings, wood-burning fireplaces, cypress mantles, and wood floors. An impressive collection of original art and artifacts adds to the historic atmosphere. The house is now a wing of the main mansion accessed through an arched, landscaped carriageway.
The restaurant features Langlois’ sublime cuisine with ingenious creations of pan-seared foie gras with brioche pain perdu, lobster risotto, rack of lamb, sea bass, seafood crêpes, slow-cooked duck confit atop Houmas House honey-infused yams, baby turnips, and fried brussels sprouts among the many choices.
Guests can also order a seven-course Louisiana tasting menu—in advance—accompanied by wine pairings with each dish. The bill of fare is described as a “menu of the moment,” based on inspiration as well as what’s available that day in the market.
In addition, the Sugar Baron’s Feast in the mansion’s dining room is another very special occasion to share at Houmas House. The evening begins with libations at the Turtle Bar, followed by a private tour of the mansion. The main event, a seven-course feast, includes tales of lavish dinners from the 1800s when Houmas House was known as the Sugar Palace, the largest sugar plantation in Louisiana. The feast is billed as “the indulgence of a lifetime!”
Houmas House and Gardens hosts many weddings and other celebrations year ‘round, including Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s, Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and even a Baton Rouge Symphony performance under the oaks in late fall.
Hopefully, however, there’s always room at the inn for that special getaway!
Details. Details. Details.
Houmas House Plantation and Gardens
40136 Highway 942 River Road
(225) 473-9380 • houmashouse.com
Open 9 am–8 pm daily
DIRECTIONS: Houmas House Plantation and Gardens is located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, just four miles from I-10 on Louisiana’s historic River Road. The plantation is less than an hour from New Orleans’ Armstrong International Airport and less than a half-hour from Baton Rouge.
RECIPES: Several recipes from Chef Langlois appear in the issue this month: Almond Crusted Flounder with pumpkin beurre blanc; Creole Tomato Gazpacho; Sweet Potato Bread Pudding. Two more recipes can be found online for Crab and Mango Cakes with chipotle remoulade sauce as well as bisque of curried pumpkin, crawfish, and corn.