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The Dish: Artful Dining

Roasted winter squash soup and chicken slider combo from NOMA Café

Steven Hronek

After a long season of cramped department stores, family gatherings and endless eating, you deserve a little “me time.” Why not enjoy a quiet, cultural respite and perhaps a light lunch? January is the final month to catch the artwork of Prospect.2, a great showcase of both local and international artists. Day passes are available at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Art Center for $10 and, of course, there are perfect spots for a bite to eat along the way.

Café NOMA by Ralph Brennan, located inside the New Orleans Museum of Art, is a sunny café with large colorful couches placed in front of expansive picture windows, offering views of City Park’s paddleboats and midday exercisers. Café NOMA offers lunch Tuesday through Sunday, perfect for taking a break from perusing the three stories of art, including Joseph Cornell’s boxes and P.2 artist Jennifer Steinkamp’s video instillation, “The Vanquished.” The menu features light fare, such as panini, soups, salads and cheese and charcuterie plates. The “Choose Any Two” combination of half a panini and a cup of soup is a great way to warm up on a cold day and a perfect amount of food – try the potato, bacon and leek soup and a pepper-roasted chicken slider with goat cheese and grape chutney.

There are also various vegetarian options. The wood-fired pizza with manchego, roasted garlic, sweet peppers and caramelized onions is great for sharing with a friend. So are the salads, which border on the larger side of the portions. The blueberry-and-arugula salad with ricotta salata cheese, toasted pecans and a blueberry-white balsamic dressing is a delicate and refreshing option. An ample selection of pastries – including cookies big enough use as plates – and coffee drinks, beer and wine are also available.

After strolling through the CAC to glimpse the P.2 installations – check out the work of Alexis Rockman, whose vibrant paintings of the natural world will leave you in awe – head to the new Rouses on nearby Baronne Street, where you can find a slew of lunch items for decent prices. The new Rouses offers not only soup and salad bars, but also a sleek counter where you can order gourmet panini, pho, slices of pizza, giant burritos and sushi. At $5.99 a bowl, the “Pho of the Day” is a tasty bargain and is prepared specially for you. I had the brisket and mushroom pho with a sweet broth spiced up with jalapeños, topped with basil, which was still warm when I arrived back at the abode to eat it, . The Cuban panino with ham and a really succulent pulled pork smothered in melted muenster cheese is fail-proof for pork-lovers. You can dress the sandwich how you like, but of course I topped mine in the classics: pickles and mustard. The cheese counter – with cheeses selected by St. James Cheese Company – is very chic, with a terrific international selection of artisanal cheeses, pâté and even dried mushrooms. The seafood section features tanks of lobsters and live fish. The wine section harbors a beautiful glass humidor. The
new Rouses is definitely worth the trip, whether you need to make groceries or just want a quick lunch. But, don’t forget dessert – Rouse’s coffee bar
also serves gelato.

Night owls and book worms alike will enjoy Dawn Dedeaux’s “The Goddess Fortuna and Her Dunces in an Effort to Make Sense of it all,” an instillation in the courtyard at the Historic New Orleans Collection, which is only viewable from the hours of 6 to 10 p.m. and features a dark, disturbing interpretation of
John Kennedy Toole’s classic A Confederacy of Dunces. A Lucky Dog is of course in order afterward, but DeDeaux’s haunting impact will probably leave you needing a stiff drink.

Go to Bar Tonique, the dark and dapper destination on North Rampart Street, where classic cocktails – Sazeracs, Aviations – are smart enough to help you debate literature.

Try This:
For a truly artful experience, try the French Onion Soup at Café Degas. Even realists will admit this sinful dish, blanketed with melted Gruyere, leaves
a lasting impression.

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