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A Frenchie Romance

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.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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