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Chef John Folse, owner of Chef John Folse & Company headquartered in Gonzales, La., reopened Lafitte's Landing Restaurant at Bittersweet Plantation May 18th in historic downtown Donaldsonville. The public opening came on the heels of three private parties held for long-time customers and special friends and an open house for area residents. The restaurant closed Oct. 25, 1998 when a fire destroyed the Viala Plantation in which Lafitte's Landing was housed since it opened July 14, 1978.

"It's been an exciting few months for the company," Folse said. Following the fire our first concern was placing our employees and handling the holiday parties already scheduled."

In a press conference, Folse stated that there was never a question of whether he would reopen the restaurant, and ultimately the place to relocate was right at home.

Lafitte's Landing is housed at Bittersweet Plantation, Folse's former home of 20 years. The restaurant features four dining rooms named in honor of family members or local historical figures. The Gingry Boardroom, named in honor of Andrew Gingry, the builder of the home, seats 12 guests. The Donaldson Dining Rooms, the two main dining rooms, are named in honor of William Donaldson, the founder of Donaldsonville. The Laulie Cire Room is named for the granddaughter of Gingry and is designed for romantic, intimate dining.

Lafitte's Landing Restaurant at Bittersweet Plantation also features patio dining and Bush's Bar, named for the five Bouchereau brothers who grew up in the home.

 

The Louisiana indigenous cuisine Folse became famous for serving from Russia to Rome will be the basis of the Lafitte's Landing menu. The restaurant seats 80 guests and features menu items that are 80% locally produced. The chefs at Lafitte's Landing go to the primary food source, whether it is the farmers for produce or fishermen for fresh seafood from the Gulf, rivers and bayous.

In addition to fine dining, Lafitte's Landing Restaurant at Bittersweet Plantation offers Bed and Breakfast accommodations. Both BitterSuite and SuiteOlive are accessible by stairs and are located on the second level of the restaurant. Room amenities include refrigerator, phone, TV and CD player.

Donaldsonville was the capital city of Louisiana in 1830. The city houses many historic structures including the B. Lemann Brothers building, Bel House, the Court House and Ascension Catholic Church. Many civic groups such as the Ascension Heritage Association, the Fort Butler Foundation, the Donaldsonville Development Corporation, the Ascension Parish Tourist Commission, the Donaldsonville Tourist Commission and the Donaldsonville Chamber of Commerce have combined efforts over the last year to work toward the revitalization of Donaldsonville.

Gingry began construction of Bittersweet Plantation in 1853 on what was then considered the outskirts of town. The overseer-style plantation home has a foundation of red cedar framed in virgin cypress. In contrast to the other buildings constructed around square blocks, his home was laid out facing the Mississippi River. The house features a front veranda and high-pitched roof.

As Gingry neared completion of his home, the Civil War began. The Northern army invaded Donaldsonville and built Fort Butler on the banks of Bayou Lafourche. The yard of Gingry’s home was used for Union encampments and his barn became a stable for their horses. Gingry, who was one of the first postmasters and many say one of the town’s first mayors, was shot and died on the rear steps of the house after an exchange of bullets with Union soldiers who were raiding his plantation commissary. Upon his death the house became headquarters for Union officers with one bedroom on the main floor used as a larder for salting meat and storing vegetables. When Union forces were ordered to bombard and burn the young settlement, Bittersweet Plantation was one of seven buildings left standing.

Gingry’s widow referred to the home as "Bittersweet," referencing the fact that her husband’s sweet dream of living in his plantation home met such a bitter end with his untimely death.

The Bouchereau family, descendants of the Gingrys, retained ownership of the home throughout its history. Folse and his wife, Laulie Bouchereau Folse, bought the home in 1978 and restored the plantation to its original beauty.

Bittersweet Plantation has witnessed more than 140 years of Donaldsonville’s "bittersweet" history. A new epoch of Bittersweet Plantation begins as it becomes home to Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant.

 

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404 Claiborne Ave. • Donaldsonville, LA 70346 • (225) 644-6000