Met chef Jaime Hernandez last night at the Natchez Food & Wine Festival. He cooks at Juban’s, in Baton Rouge. At the event, he served his cream of roasted garlic soup, with a sprinkling of smoked sac-au-lait (a Louisiana game fish). It was spectacular, and easily one of my favorite things. (Another favorite thing: the open-faced mini burgers from the fantastic Baton Rouge gourmet hamburger restaurant Fat Cow, topped with bacon and a fried quail egg; Chef Doug Hosford won Best in Show for them!).
“Jaime Hernandez, he’s the real thing,” my friend told me. “He takes farm-to-table food very seriously. He’s kind of a fanatic.” My friend said that as a compliment.
I got to talking to Jaime, and found out that this insanely delicious garlic soup isn’t on his menu all the time. “I only make it when I can get fresh garlic,” he said. “That dried garlic you get at the supermarket doesn’t cut it.”
Jaime pulled a small hunk of his own home-cured ham out, and carved off a couple of slices for me and my pal. Porky, salty, oily ecstasy. I can’t wait to get down to Juban’s and taste what else Jaime is cooking. We talked a bit about eating in France, and he said it’s his dream to go to Paris to eat at Frenchie. I went to the Frenchie website to check it out, and found the completely charming video, which I’ve embedded above. Takes two months to get a reservation there. If I want to go in October, when we’ll be in Paris, I guess I should get on the list now.
Other standouts from the Natchez Food & Wine Fest: the crabmeat pico de gallo from Babalu (Jackson, MS); the massively hopped Timber Beast beer from Lazy Magnolia; Chef Alex Eaton’s intensely flavored lamb-stuffed grape leaves from Table 100 (Flowood, MS), using pastured lamb from Two Run Farm.
I wish I were having those lamb-stuffed grape leaves right now. Right this very second! In fact, I think I would eat anything from Two Run Farm that Alex Eaton cooked.