Cause for celebration abounds from February though the spring season as New Orleans returns to its lively form. Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras lead to the Irish and Italian celebrations of St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s days, as well as Easter, Mother’s Day and a tidal wave of graduations and weddings that make it difficult to find a quiet weekend. Food is the centerpiece of every celebration, and in New Orleans the drinks are always flowing. This month, we’ve checked in with 10 local food and drink purveyors to find out what the season will bring.
»»» Arnaud’s Valentine Special «««
One of New Orleans’ grand dame restaurants, Arnaud’s (813 Bienville St., 524-5433, ArnaudsRestaurant.com) always manages to be at the center of the party from its original French Quarter location at 813 Bienville St. This month, in partnership with Moët, along with Adler’s Jewelers, Arnaud’s plans to make Valentine’s Day super special for a lucky guest with a surprise diamond in their glass of Moët. For more information on the reception-style event, call the restaurant.
“Arnaud’s is the hub for all things celebration, offering everything from romantic dining for two in the main dining room perfect for Valentine’s Day to private dining options, including our Bourbon Suites with balconies overlooking Bourbon Street, ideal for Mardi Gras reveling,” says Co-Owner Katie Casbarian.
Arnaud’s menu is replete with seafood dishes, great for those observing the Lenten Season. Casbarian’s favorites include the Pompano Duarte and Pompano David.
»»» Red Gravy’s King Cake French Toast «««
Lunch and brunch are big in the CBD this season over at Red Gravy (125 Camp St., 561-8844, RedGravyCafe.com), which was recently named by New Orleans Magazine readers their favorite Brunch Restaurant in New Orleans. The restaurant also ranked notably as the second-place Italian Restaurant. Through Mardi Gras, Owner Roseann Melisi Rostoker is featuring King Cake French Toast. On Nyx parade day (February 22), the restaurant will host a Nyx-themed brunch with a raffle drawing for a handmade purse and assorted Nyx throws.
Roseann loves celebrating traditions, and you’ll always find seasonal specials on her menu.
“The whole idea behind Red Gravy is family recipes and traditions. While I may be a little Italian girl from North Jersey, I’ve won two different red beans and rice throw-downs,” says Roseann, who serves her award-winning red beans and rice and gumbo during the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. Guests around St. Patrick’s Day can expect her New York-style corned beef and rye, and the Easter season will bring secret-recipe Italian breads and pies.
»»» Bayona’s Chef Eason Barksdale «««
Bayona (430 Rue Dauphine, 525-4455, Bayona.com) recently made a change in the kitchen. “This past fall Bayona was thrilled to welcome back Eason Barksdale as Chef de Cuisine, and Bayona’s guests and regular patrons have experienced him flourishing in our kitchen since,” says Proprietor Regina Keever. Barksdale most recently helmed the kitchen at Susan Spicer’s Lakeview restaurant, Mondo.
“There’s no better way to enjoy a French Quarter afternoon during Carnival season than with a glass of bubbly in hand, enjoying our secluded, tropical courtyard,” says Keever.
This month, Bayona continues its Ooh La La lunch special, which adds a bit of bubbly flare to the mid-day meal. A three-course meal with complimentary champagne, the Ooh La La lunch features some of Bayona’s signature dishes, such as the roasted Cream of Garlic soup, balsamic Bayona salad with shaved Parmesan and Smoked Duck “PB&J” with cashew butter and pepper jelly.
»»» Brennan’s Steak DianneBarksdale «««
Another of New Orleans’ grand dames, Brennan’s Restaurant (417 Royal St., 525-9711, BrennansNewOrleans.com) is excited to partner with New York’s legendary Four Seasons for a rare, collaborative dinner pop-up February 8-11. The two iconic restaurants will team up for dinner service and treat guests to signature favorites from both establishments, which share a similar history and prestige in their respective cities. In addition to signature favorites, the offerings will also include a preview of new dishes planned for the reopening of the Four Seasons later this year.
In May, Brennan’s will honor Mother’s Day with its third-annual Turtle Parade, a festive celebration of its courtyard mascots: five turtles named after the “mother sauces” of French Cuisine.
“All are invited to march along with the Krewe of Turtles as they parade along the streets of the Vieux Carré and return home to the glorious historic residence with an after party including a blessing, champagne sabering and complimentary hors d’oeuvres and confections,” says General Manager Chris Pendleton. The “slowest second-line on earth” assembles on Bienville Street at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 13.
»»» Bourbon House’s Chef Eric Cook «««
The family of restaurants owned by Dickie Brennan & Co. are currently in Mardi Gras mode, celebrating with a number of a cocktails and confections. All located in the French Quarter, Palace Café (605 Canal St., 523-1661, PalaceCafe.com), Bourbon House (144 Bourbon St., 522-0111, BourbonHouse.com), Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse (716 Iberville St., 522-2467, DickieBrennansSteakhouse.com) and Tableau (616 St. Peter St., 934-3463, TableauFrenchQuarter.com) are offering King Cake-inspired desserts, which range from eclairs to gateaus.
For the eighth year in a row, Bourbon House has reinstituted the decadent King Cake Bevvy, a riff on the famous frozen Brandy Milk Punch. According to Wesley Janssen, Marketing Manager, the drink tastes remarkably like a King Cake and is festively garnished with glittering sugar in purple, green and gold. In the kitchen, Bourbon House recently welcomed lauded Executive Chef Eric Cook to its team.
»»» Red Dog Diner’s Quail Waffles «««
Paradegoers, residents and visitors to Uptown looking for a quaint and delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner spot can expect “fine comfort food made from scratch” at Magazine Street’s relatively new Red Dog Diner (3122 Magazine St., 934-3333, RedDogDiner.com). Red Dog Diner’s eclectic menu combines traditional Southern comfort-food flavors with a sophisticated approach. Notable dishes by chef Terri Savoie include the Chicken & Gravy sandwich, the Fried Quail & Waffle and the Crab & Bacon dip. The warm and rustic feel of the restaurant suits its flavors well.
“The atmosphere of the restaurant was designed to feel very cozy and inviting with the intent of creating a space where people would enjoy breaking bread together, sipping wine or cocktails and making memories with friends and family,” says Managing Partner Michael Buchert. To that end, the restaurant is excited to introduce “Nibbles & Sips” from 3-6:30 p.m. on weekdays and all-day on Wined Up Wednesday. All wines by the bottle and on tap are priced half off and the menu’s Tidbits, Grazers, Smallish Plates and Share or Don’t items are also discounted.
»»» Dick & Jenny’s «««
Dick & Jenny’s (4501 Tchoupitoulas St., 894-9880, DickAndJennys.com) presents another option for warm and welcoming Uptown dining. Located near the parade route, Dick & Jenny’s occupies an old Creole cottage with authentic neighborhood charm. Chef Vidak Spaar offers a menu of contemporary Creole cuisine with seasonal, fresh ingredients sourced from Louisiana farmers, fisherman and artisanal producers. In the springtime, guests can look forward to an infusion of blueberries, strawberries and crawfish. In late spring, corn and watermelon usually make an appearance.
“Blueberries and strawberries can be utilized in anything from salads and desserts to cocktails – probably all three. Crawfish will also be utilized across the menu, from sauces to risotto to savory cheesecake – we use it as much as possible,” says General Manager Abraham D’Aquin.
From Easter to Mother’s Day and graduation, guests can keep an eye out for special daytime brunches hosted by Dick & Jenny’s, which is usually only open for dinner service. The restaurant also plays host to a variety of private events in spring, from luncheons and rehearsal dinners to full wedding receptions. According to D’Aquin, Dick & Jenny’s prides itself on the undivided attention and family feel they’re able to offer for private events as well as regular restaurant guests.