July 28, 2011

Mississippi Memories....Lunching at Le Fleur's!

I love those dreams......when my Mother and Daddy appear in whatever story unfolds in my mind in the wee hours of nighttime. Is it unusual that I speak to them each night before I go to sleep? I ask them to "come to me".....be with me in my dreams. It is my connection to revisit my childhood and know that although my parents have gone to heaven, they are still watching over me and keeping me close to them.
Anyway...on to my dream which was absolutely wonderful, so let's make this story more upbeat and happy!

We lived off of Highway 51 North, now known as I-55 in North Jackson. In the early 50's,  60's and 70's, we would frequent a fabulous restaurant known as LE FLEUR'S! It was a place to be seen, as they say! LE FLEUR'S RESTAURANT  was located on the frontage road of U.S. 51 North in Jackson and operated in connection with the Jacksonian Motor Motel. The dining at Le Fleur's was famously known for its New Orleans Creole dishes, fine steaks, and seafoods.


 Mother and Daddy would often excuse me from school early in order to drive out to Hawkins Field and fly on Daddy's Cessna to Ohio in order to visit my Grandparents. We would lunch at Le Fleur's before heading out on our trip. I felt so very special and grown- up during these luncheons, as I had their undivided attention. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be having little tea sandwiches and a "cocoa-cola" while my poor classmates were still in school diagramming sentences! We also enjoyed attending football parties held at The Jacksonian when our LSU ( Go Tigers!) friends were in town during the Ole Miss (Hotty Toddy!)  vs. LSU games. There were also several Knife and Fork Club dinners held at Le Fleur's that were formal affairs for Mother and Daddy! I tried to think back and vaguely remember murals on the walls which was quite fashionable for the time.

 It seems amazing to us now, but in those days you could order a sirloin strip for $5,00 , a 16 oz. rib eye steak for $3.95, one- half of a fried chicken for $1.85, and a whole broiled flounder for $2.25! Mother always ordered the Oyster's Bienville and my usual order was Crab in a Skillet, always served in a small black cast iron skillet, or the Frozen Fruit Salad with Tea Sandwiches. Daddy's request was either the Trout Meuniere or their Rib Eye Steak!

This is an old postcard which shows a view of the Pagoda Garden from the dining room.

Front of Postcard of the Pagoda Garden View

Back of Postcard-Love this!

 The Jacksonian Highway Hotel was built at 4800 Highway 51 North (later Interstate 55 North), in an area only just beginning to blossom with commercial development. Construction was begun in April 1955. George Wilkinson and his partners at Crestline Development (later known as the Athens Investment Company) set out to build something more than just another motel. Indeed, the Jacksonian was conceived as a “highway hotel” which offered the luxury and service of a traditional hotel with the convenience of parking at one’s door. This was also not simply the product of an anonymous builder, but sprang off the drawing boards of one of Jackson’s most prestigious architectural firms, the offices of N.W. Overstreet. The buildings were built by Wise Construction, a local company and the furnishings and fittings were, as much as possible, locally sourced as well. All told, the cost for a 90 room hotel and restaurant was $700,000, an especially impressive sum when one considers that Dumas Milner (we used to attend parties at his home) paid $1,000,000 to renovate the King Edward (oh I have stories on the King Edward also) and its 400 rooms in 1954-55.

There was, however, another significant reason for local interest in the new hotel, for it housed the restaurant LeFleur’s, a local institution which had lately been located on President Street in downtown Jackson. The guest book was signed by everyone from Elvis and the Colonel to Bob Hope, Cher and Greg Allman. Roy Rogers and Trigger signed the guest book as well. For years, Le Fleur’s was the place to see and be seen in Jackson. The Jacksonian was fading at its edges by the time it closed in 1984. Le Fleur’s closed its doors as well. Gone, but never forgotten!

3 dozen raw oysters on the half shell
6 pie pans, filled with rock salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1/2 cup finely minced bell pepper
1 cup finely minced green onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups minced raw shrimp
1 cup fresh mushrooms, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups Bechamel sauce (made with Half-and-Half )
2/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup fresh French bread crumbs
Salt, white pepper and Tabasco to taste
Dash of Peychaud's bitters  or Angostura bitters

Preheat oven to 400°F. Melt the butter, then sauté the onions, bell pepper, green onions, mushrooms and garlic until soft; add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute until barely pink. Deglaze with the white wine and lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Add the Bechamel sauce, cheese and bread crumbs, and reduce to a simmer. Add salt, white pepper and Tabasco to taste, dash of Peychaud's, then simmer for 20 minutes, or until very thick.

Arrange 6 raw oysters in each of the pans, firmly nestled in the rock salt. Cover each oyster with the sauce, and bake for 10 minutes, until the oysters and sauce are very hot and the top of the sauce is browned. Serve at once. The rock salt helps stabilize the oyster shells as this dish cooks. It's there for support, not seasoning; make sure you don't get any on your oysters, or they'll be too salty.

2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup Half-and-Half
4 drops Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over low heat; do not brown. Add the flour gradually, stirring constantly to keep the mixture smooth. Do not allow the flour to cook. Once all the flour is blended in, gradually pour in the half-and-half, stirring constantly with a wire whisk to keep the sauce perfectly smooth. Move the whisk around in the pan as your stir to blend the sauce at the bottom and sides. Once all the milk has been added, add the bayleaf and cook over low heat until the sauce thickens, then remove from heat and stir in the Tabasco and salt. Blend thoroughly.

Mother's good friend, Annie Dean Grant often made this Le Fleur's dish!
She knew it was my favorite! I loved Miss Annie Dean.
She hosted one of my wedding showers and was one of the
best southern cooks I have ever known!

1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 Can Cheddar Cheese Soup
1 Can Lump Crab Meat
Salt, Pepper, Worcestershire Sauce and Sherry to taste

Combine all ingredients well. Bake at 350 degrees F. until heated through in a black iron skillet. Or bake in a small baking dish! Serve over toast!

Oh yes...My Dream?.......
Walking into Le Fleur's with Mother and Daddy and
feeling like a special, well-loved child again......

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love your blog! The gorgeous photos and fantastic recipes make me want to visit Maine NOW! This particular post, along with your Mississippi recipes, brings back some very special memories of growing up in Jackson. My parents celebrated many anniversaries at LeFleur's, and I knew the restaurant well. What a wonderful place! I invite you to visit my blogs at Mississippi Memories and Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.


I so love receiving your thoughts and comments. I also hope you found something that made you smile.