Ash Wednesday Amour
Restaurant Offerings for a Lenten Valentine’s Day
Dick & Jenny’s Chargrilled Oysters with roasted red peppers, garlic butter and Parmesan
This year, Valentine’s Day arrives as Mardi Gras comes to a close and the Lenten season begins. The holiday shares its date with Ash Wednesday, which, for some, means giving up an indulgence or two. But it certainly won’t stop the romantics from flirting over a candle-lit meal in one of America’s top food cities. Restaurants in New Orleans know well how to cater to Lenten observers, and the region’s bountiful seafood will provide a number of intriguing menu options for those whose focus turns to fish. And for those who don’t observe Lent, Valentine’s Day might just extend the merriment of Mardi Gras decadence just one more day. Restaurants across the city will be offering a number of specials for those looking to celebrate love, and we’ve got the skinny on many of the offerings that will follow Fat Tuesday.
813 Bienville St.
In the French Quarter, Arnaud’s believes in the aphrodisiacal qualities of the oyster, and on Valentine’s Day, they’ll surely be serving up countless orders of one of their most popular menu items: Oysters Arnaud. The appetizer features five oysters, each prepared with different baked toppings and representing both classics and Arnaud’s exclusives: Oysters Bienville, Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters Kathryn, Oysters Ohan and Oysters Suzette. The restaurant will be festively decorated with red, heart-shaped balloons and will feature its à la carte dinner menu, which is packed with seafood dishes including Casbarian family favorites such as the Potato Encrusted Gulf Fish and the Pompano Duarte with Gulf Shrimp.
This year, Arnaud’s proudly celebrates its 100th anniversary, and they’ve launched a new menu item just in time for the centennial celebration. The new Gulf Fish Grenobloise features a pan-seared fillet topped with Sauce Grenobloise and served with vegetable ragout. The new dish will accompany the restaurant’s time-tested, popular offerings such as the Souffle Potatoes, Shrimp Arnaud, Bananas Foster, Strawberries Arnaud, and libations like the French 75 and Café Brûlot.
Dick & Jenny’s
4501 Tchoupitoulas St.
Located Uptown near where Napoleon Avenue meets the river is an intimate Creole cottage that houses Dick & Jenny’s. With two distinct dining rooms, Dick & Jenny’s is both a charming and lively place to dine. Chef Rita Bernhardt shares the restaurant’s long-standing predilection for Creole cuisine with a Southern twist and offers a menu that features a little of the expected and the unexpected such as gumbo and BBQ Shrimp or Blackened Beets and Brisket with Buttered Grits.
A special menu will accompany the regular dinner menu on Valentine’s Day along with chef Rita’s Valentine’s special for two: a dozen of Cristiano’s Chargrilled Oysters (with roasted red peppers, garlic butter and Parmesan) paired with a bottle of Paul Cheneau Reserva Cava. Oysters and bubbly are sure to get the sparks flying while you feast over the Black Drum or tender Sous Vide Chicken. Of course, the restaurant offers a full wine list, local craft beers and classic cocktails if the cava special isn’t for you.
144 Bourbon St.
Another French Quarter locale for setting the mood is the iconic oyster bar at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. Probably one of Bourbon Street’s less raucous days, Ash Wednesday offers an opportunity to watch post-Mardi Gras passers-by as the sun goes down and you and your date enjoy fresh oysters. Whether a precursor to a romantic dinner at Bourbon House or another nearby Dickie Brennan locale, such Tableau or Palace Café, stopping in at the Bourbon House raw bar makes an impression. The restaurant offers traditional Louisiana oysters on the half-shell, but Valentine’s Day is perhaps the perfect opportunity to try their raw oysters topped with champagne mignonette and local caviar. Go all out with the Fruits de Mer menu item, which includes petit, grand and royal servings of the caviar-topped oysters, boiled Gulf shrimp, marinated crab claws and seafood boucherie.
2441 Orleans Ave.
Just up Orleans Avenue in Mid-City is the newly opened Gabrielle, which New Orleans is excited to welcome back following its 12-year, Katrina-induced hiatus. Owned by Mary and Greg Sonnier, Gabrielle is a fine-dining Cajun restaurant named for the couple’s daughter, who now operates the new location. According to Greg Sonnier, the restaurant’s most popular dish “by far” is the Slow Roasted Duck with orange-sherry sauce and shoestring potatoes. For Lent, the restaurant will begin offering a number of fish specials on Fridays. This month, Gabrielle will feature Mary’s Bourbon Milk Punch.
“It’s a family favorite to drink at Mardi Gras time. It’s pretty heavy on the good vanilla and bourbon, which is what makes it special,” says Greg.
On Valentine’s Day, Gabrielle will offer a prix fixe four-course menu for $60 that will feature seafood dishes for those observing Lent and a couple of meatier options for those who are not.
“A lot of people give up sweets for Lent. On Ash Wednesday, a special dessert dish we;re offering is an Ash-Ripened Cheese Plate. The ash-ripened cheese will also be featured as a sauce on one of the entrees,” says Greg.
2700 Metairie Road
In Old Metairie, café b welcomes lovebirds on Valentine’s Day to its retro bistro-inspired, sophisticated dining room. A member of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, café b highlights the elevated, comfort-food creations of Executive Chef Michael Uddo. Exemplary dishes include the signature café b burger (ground sirloin on a house-made bun with fried onion rings, romaine, tomato house pimento cheese and garlic frites) and the Gulf Fish Meuniere with pecan meuniere, Brabant potatoes, haricots verts and toasted pecans.
For Valentine’s Day, café b will offer a three-course menu and glass of Moet for $65. Previous Valentine’s Day menus have included a variety of favorites: appetizers such as the Crawfish Spring Rolls and Flash Fried Oysters & Brie, entrées such as Corriander Crusted Scallops and Beef Wellington and desserts such as 3 Layer Mousse Cookie and Dreamsicle Cheesecake.
NOPSI Hotel: Public Service & Above the Grid
2311 Baronne St.
Downtown, the new NOPSI Hotel has brought a couple of new Valentine’s Day options to the city with Public Service, the hotel’s “casual-yet-sophisticated” restaurant featuring Gulf Coast-sourced ingredients in the contemporary cuisine of chef Dustin Brien, and Above the Grid, the hotel’s rooftop bar.
“Public Service’s spin on hushpuppies is the talk of the CBD. Our non-traditional Tasso Hushpuppies include sweet corn, pimento, “cheddah” and honey cane syrup – a great start to any meal,” says Ellen LeMaire, General Manager, who also notes the popularity of dishes from Public Service’s in-house rotisserie.
Public Service will be serving a traditional four-course prix fixe menu on Valentine’s Day with a complimentary glass of champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberry. Each course on the Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu will offer an item for patrons observing Lent. According to LeMaire, the vibrant ambience of Public Service offers both an upbeat yet relaxing Valentine’s setting.
Meanwhile, Above the Grid will be hosting a “Single’s Awareness Day Celebration.” A night of non-romantic festivities, the party will exclude your stereotypical Valentine’s day candles, chocolates and heart-shaped goodies in favor of flowing wine and fun tunes for those looking to avoid the traditional Valentine’s Day experience.
430 Rue Dauphine
Creole cottages make for a romantic restaurant atmosphere, and Bayona will take advantage of its intimate nature on Valentine’s Day from its beautiful confines in the French Quarter. The restaurant also offers a secluded courtyard with a tropical allure and burbling fountains. According to Proprietor Regina Keever, Chef de Cuisine Eason Barksdale incorporates diverse flavor profiles in captivating dishes that channel the style of cuisine created by Executive Chef and Owner Susan Spicer.
“After 27 years in the French Quarter, Bayona remains a premier choice for a romantic Valentine’s dinner,” says Keever. “Patrons can expect a decadent fixed price dinner with pairings from our esteemed wine collection. Being Ash Wednesday, the Valentine’s Day menu will showcase, among classic meat options, local Gulf Seafood, as Bayona’s daily menu does as well.”
Also notable this month (though not on Valentine’s Day), is the return of Bayona’s Ooh La La lunch, which offers a three-course meal served with complimentary champagne. Great for both Carnival season (and perhaps a postponed Valentine’s Day date if Fat Tuesday proves too indulgent), the menu features a number of Bayona’s signature dishes.