Maison Lacour Turns 20
By Maggie Heyn Richardson
By Julio Melara
"Ready, Set, Dine"
This old Maison
Speaking of food: with so many new people, restaurants and hot spots arriving in Baton Rouge this year, it’s easy to overlook great places right here under our noses. One of those is Maison Lacour (page 71). This classic French restaurant has been serving gourmet cuisine for 20 years. Our restaurant writer, Maggie Heyn Richardson, takes you on a tasty tour of Maison Lacour’s classic menu. I had the pleasure of eating at this little cozy cottage recently, and my entire meal was fabulous. You may have trouble pronouncing some of the choices on the menu if you’re not fluent in French. Among my favorites are the New Zealand rack of lamb, or the lamb tenderloin, which is baked, sliced, and served with horseradish cream sauce. Vivé la maison!
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
We had already ordered four appetizers and four entrees from our perfect, subtle waitress, but at the last minute, I couldn’t stand it. “Throw in the soupe Jacqueline, please- and bring four spoons.” It was an impulse buy. It’s not like we needed it. But it ended up being one of the best moves of the night.
Soups are so often either homespun or underwhelming, until one comes along that showcases how exceptional they can be. That was the case with this impossibly smooth velouté studded with jumbo lump crabmeat, bits of bright green asparagus and a backdrop of brie. The cheese was woven seamlessly into the cream base. There were no blasts of Cajun spices to brace for. And the hunks of crab were so sweet, large and well-textured, I would bet the farm they’d never seen the inside of a freezer.
The soup had followed a sampling of appetizers that included a formidable venison sausage served with soft, tangy grilled apples and sweet three-mustard sauce and scallops brought to the edge of doneness with a perfect sear then bathed in a punchy sauce of Kaffir lime.
Maison Lacour, which turns 20 this year, covers solid French ground. The menu is replete with game, sweetbreads, Provencal lamb, steak au poivre, fish en pappillote and delicately prepared shellfish. What’s delightfully absent is the requisite list of Cajun and Creole numbers that seem to infiltrate nearly every fine restaurant around. Here, you can have your grilled filet topped with crawfish tails in a spicy red butter sauce, and there are safe dishes such as grilled shrimp and vegetables; but mostly it’s straightforward, old school French. The recipes and techniques were handed down to current chef Michael Jetty from his mother-in-law, Jacqueline Gréaud, who grew up in France and launched Maison Lacour with husband John.
I weighed the venison tournedoes and broiled raspberry duck before opting for the easy way out: John’s Special, a four-ounce filet with béarnaise sauce, a handful of shrimp in garlic butter sauce and puff pastry filled with more of straight-from-heaven crab laced with Hollandaise. We loved it for remaining simple and moderate and letting fine ingredients speak for themselves.
One friend settled on the yummy caperless veal picata, tender and delicately topped with tangy lemon butter sauce. Another friend passed around samples of the indulgent sweetbreads. I prefer them slightly browned, but this velvety version was nicely gilded with rich cream sauce and studs of earthy mushrooms.
For dessert, we sampled the brulee-like, silky crème Catalane, the multi-textured, tangy tarte Tatin and the fabulous orange-spiked, spongy crepes Suzette. All terrific choices.
Nearly everything at Maison Lacour is made from scratch, from the French bread to sauces to ice cream. The restaurant makes for a knock-out spot for purists.
And order something with crab.
"Nearly everything at Maison Lacour is made from scratch, from the French bread to sauces to ice cream.
The restaurant makes for a knock-out spot for purists."